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Jolene DiBrango: Let’s get the word out – Teaching is a noble profession

Jolene DiBrango – NYSUT Executive Vice President

Recently, Jolene DiBrango posted an essay in the Democrat & Chronicle highlighting the teaching profession and what it still has to offer young people today.  She also points out the challenges ahead for our state as it grapples with a sharp reduction in enrolment in teacher education programs and a large percentage of teachers set to retire over the next decade.

Education, said child advocate Marian Wright Edelman, is about improving the lives of others and leaving your community and world better than you found it.

As a sixth-grade teacher for more than 20 years, there’s nothing more humbling than to think that I had a role in improving the lives of young people.  I am proud that, along with my dedicated colleagues, we worked together to make our suburban Rochester community a better place.  Maybe someday one of our former students will cure cancer or lead a technological advance that today we cannot even imagine.  

Too many young people, unfortunately, don’t see teaching as an attractive career option.  It’s one reason that New York faces a looming teacher shortage — and why lawmakers and policymakers must act quickly to help avert a crisis.

About one-third of the state’s 210,000 classroom teachers are at — or approaching — retirement age.  The SUNY chancellor predicted in 2017 our state would need 180,000 new teachers in the next decade just to make up for retirements and resignations.  Yet, despite this growing demand for educators, enrollment in state college and university teacher preparation programs has fallen by nearly 50 percent since 2009.   Teacher attrition — trained educators leaving the profession — remains a vexing problem across the state, especially in large urban districts.

While New York is not yet in full-blown crisis mode, many districts are already experiencing shortages, especially in bilingual education; special education; math and science; and career and technical education.  For now, the shortage seems to be hitting rural districts most acutely, with some beginning this school year with critical teaching positions unfilled.

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